The story so far: Sandro Tonali
In Sandro Tonali's world, growing up, most things were red and black. There were a couple of Inter-supporting uncles but the rest were all Milanistas - his father, Giandomenico, was one of the most vehement, travelling across Europe to follow his team. It was a passion that a young Tonali, born on the 8th of May 2000, inherited.
Initially a striker, as a child Tonali - born in Lodi, an area of the Lombardy region in northern Italy - didn't wear the colours of his and his family's favourite club, at least not on the pitch. Football was always a passion, one he shared with his older brother Henry too, but he had to move around to follow it; firstly to Piacenza, where he spent a few years and then, as a teenager, to Brescia, where his breakthrough came in 2017.
In action for Brescia against Palermo
In Italy's second tier, Tonali's technical promise stood out. He made 19 appearances in his debut campaign, scoring twice, and caught the eye both with his potential and passing resemblance to the great Andrea Pirlo, who had starred for Le Rondinelle during the early part of his own career two decades previously. He had already made his bow for his country's under-19s at that point - he was named in the 2018 Under-19 European Championship Team of the Tournament - while at club level, promotion in 2019 after picking up back-to-back individual awards as Serie B's Young Footballer of the Year gave him the chance to test himself higher up.
The jump to Serie A was one he handled well. Roberto Mancini had taken note of his calm, authoritative displays at Brescia and had called him into the senior national team for the first time six months prior to Brescia's promotion, but Tonali's first cap did eventually arrive in a 5-0 win over Liechtenstein in October 2019, with a first start coming in a 3-0 triumph over Bosnia and Herzegovina the following month.
A senior Italy debut followed in 2019
One goal - a sensational curling free kick from deep on the left at Genoa - and seven assists represented a steady return from his first season in the top flight. Tonali's mature, energetic displays attracted the attention of AC Milan, his boyhood club, who had passed up the opportunity to sign him as a youngster. "I got there at the right time," he later said of the move, one he'd thought he may not get the chance to make.
Initially heading to San Siro on loan, the then-20-year-old made 23 starts in his first season with Milan, but missed out on a place in the Italy squad for the delayed 2020 European Championships, which ended in victory over England at Wembley for Mancini's men. Perhaps the disappointment of missing out on what would have been a first major tournament and trophy spurred Tonali on; in 2021/22, with his move to Milan made permanent, he grew in stature, playing 45 games in all competitions as Stefano Pioli's men won their first Scudetto since 2011.
Tonali was key to Milan's title win in 2022
It was an emotional acheievement for Tonali, who as a child had asked for Milan kits for Christmas and had recovered from an underwhelming first year at San Siro to become a crucial cog in Pioli's machine. His stoppage time winner at Lazio in April was a big moment; it was Milan's second of six successive victories to close the season and clinch the title. "We've realised that we have done something big," he said of the Scudetto win after a barren decade for one of the world's most decorated clubs. "Later we'll realise it better."
Sliding in to score a crucial winner at Lazio
Last term Tonali, now 23, further established himself, with ten assists and a couple of goals across 48 games as Milan reached the Champions League semi-finals. From now on, his life won't have a red and black tinge - it will be much more black and white. He joins a Newcastle United side who will compete a European football's top table next term and Tonali brings experience of that competition with him.
Tonali currently has 14 full Italy caps to his name, and featured against England in the UEFA Nations League
As he begins the next chapter of a hugely promising career, Tonali will aim to help the Magpies fulfil their lofty ambitions in the coming years. He has a tattoo on his hand to remind him of the possibilities that await him. It is of the word 'impossible', with "a red rash to erase the letters 'i' and 'm'," he explained. "Nothing is impossible. This is my message."